THE Ford Kuga seen some changes in the past year-or-so with the diesel variant being dropped altogether and some sparkly new special editions gracing the forecourts.
This 3rd-generation Kuga is a far car from the jacked-up Ford Focus of 2008 which first bore the Kuga name. It’s now a decent sized, all-out family SUV that packs some excellent tech inside a spacious body. It’s also a Ford, so you know you’ll be getting value too.
Prices start at just £33,380 for the Titanium Edition 1.5 and rise steadily, through the 6 trim-levels to arrive at the Graphite Tech Edition for £39,170 OTR. The ST-Line X Edition is probably the sweet-spot (£36,670) having everything you should need, including larger 19in alloys.
The Kuga Black Package Edition that I’ve been using this past week is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) that starts from just over £40k on-the-road. It mates a 2.5-litre Duratec petrol engine to an electric motor to give 225 PS of total power.
The other engine options are a full hybrid (190 PS) and a 1.5 EcoBoost petrol unit that has a 6-speed manual gearbox. Both Hybrids get a CVT automatic gearbox.
Four-wheel-drive is gone; all Kugas are front-wheel-drive only, which is fine – who ever took one off-roading anyway?
My model came with a host of options that pushed the price north of £44k, but the Graphite Tech Edition comes with the best of those options, plus an exclusive “Grey Matter” paint-scheme for just £39,170. The sacrifice would be 19in alloys instead of the Black Package Edition’s 20s.
Whichever model you choose you’ll be getting a medium-to-large SUV that majors on kerb-appeal, value and tech. It looks very much like a grown-up Puma with a curvaceous front end and LED headlights that slip sleekly back into the bonnet.
It’s the same story at the back too where the Kuga looks bang up to date with LED rear lights and that wide-stencilled lettering across the middle of the hatch.
If you’re familiar with any modern Ford cockpit – especially the Focus or Puma – then you won’t find any surprises up-front in the Kuga. Everything is well laid out and easy to reach with plenty of adjustment in both seat and steering wheel.
I found the seat to feel quite high, even on its lowest setting, but this wasn’t a problem for me although taller drivers may feel it a little strange. Visibility is good but you may be thankful for the rear-facing camera when manoeuvring; The rear pillars are on the thick side.
The modest 8in touchscreen is ideally placed, high in the central dash, with sensible controls when it comes to volume and temperature control, courtesy of physical dials – which are always preferable to prodding through menus.
The contrasting red stitching in the black upholstery looks great and you’ll find soft-feel surfaces where you’d want them – on the dash-front and the door tops.
There are some lower-grade plastics scattered around the lower areas of the cabin but generally you’ll find the interior of the Kuga feels airy, smart and modern.
There will be no complaints about space from the rear passengers either as there is loads of leg room with the sliding rear seats pushed all the way back. Headroom is good and two kids would be perfectly happy on even the longest journey.
Boot space is adequate for a PHEV at 475 litres (526 litres for non-hybrid models). The boot opening is nice and wide and the 60/40-split rear seats fold down flat, making shoving larger objects into the rear easy. There are also levers in the boot which allow for easy dropping of the rear seats.
My car came with a Bang and Olufsen 10-speaker sound system as standard and it sounded very good indeed. There is also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard across the range.
In fact, there are many features worth mentioning that are standard across the range, such as the Quickclear heated windscreen, Keyless entry and Start/Stop, rear sliding seats that can increase the already large boot capacity, Sat Nav, Cruise Control, Selectable Drive Modes, Pre-Collision Assist, Lane-Keeping Aid, Front and Rear Parking Sensors and rear-view camera.
There’s also the 12.3in digital dash, power tail-gate, rear privacy glass and a 10-way adjustable, powered, driver’s seat.
The Black Package Edition adds the likes of 20in black alloys, ST-Line Bodykit, powered panoramic sunroof, sport suspension, front and rear heated seats and heated steering wheel.
My car also came with a few options that added to the overall experience, like the Technology Pack (£550) that brings a Head Up Display and full LED Quad Projector Headlamps.
While the driving experience has always been Ford’s strong point, the Kuga PHEV does struggle a little on that front. I blame the CVT gearbox for being a little whiney when you try to trap-on a little. Putting the Kuga into Sport mode does help here, but it’s still not entirely convincing. However, once up to speed the noise does abate.
There’s also the regenerative braking which can leave you stamping on the brake pedal as you find the initial brake force was nowhere near as strong as your right foot first suggested. It makes the Kuga feel heavy under braking – but it does keep you on your toes and I expect it would be something you would automatically compensate for after a while.
The 4-wheel-drive system may have gone but Ford provide plenty of traction options in the Kuga – as well as the usual Eco, Normal and Sport modes, you also get a choice of Wet/Slippery or Snow/Sand. There is also a low-gear mode on the rotary gear selector that keeps the revs down in the worst of conditions.
The Kuga PHEV can manage around 39 miles in EV mode, which is pretty good and stacks up well against rivals. Most commuters could run on electric alone, if they have a charger at work or at home, making the PHEV very cost-effective indeed.
As you would expect in EV mode the Kuga is a very relaxed drive and even the stiffer suspension doesn’t spoil the party. Body-roll is well controlled and pot-holes are taken easily without too much harshness. I covered mostly A-roads and dual-carriageway during my week with the Kuga and it performed very well.
The steering is sharp enough and although the car sometimes feels a little heavy in the bends, it never feels ungainly or leans too-much. Overall, it’s well-balanced and steering feedback is good. In fact, it’s excellent compared to some rivals.
Noise levels were decent too and not at all intrusive. Driven sensibly and without a heavy right foot you’ll find the Kuga PHEV not just a soothing drive, but quite economical too. I managed around 47mpg over the week.
The Ford Kuga is a must-try option when it comes to larger family SUVs. It’s so well-equipped, even in base Titanium guise, it can seem like a real bargain.
The choice of just how green you go is yours, but whichever Kuga you choose you know it won’t lack style or value.
AT A GLANCE:
KUGA Black Package Edition PHEV
OTR Price: from £37,670
Engine: 2.5 Duratec petrol + Electric Motor
Power: 225 PS
Transmission: CVT Auto
0-62mph: 9.2 secs
Top Speed: 125 mph
Combined Economy: 49.6 mpg